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The term lymphoma describes any neoplastic disorder of lymphoid tissue. Malignant lymphomas fall into two groups:

  • Hodgkin's disease or Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Major differences exist between the two:

  • age - bimodal distribution in Hodgkin's, many are young; median age of 50 in non-Hodgkin's, increasing with age
  • mode of spread - predictable in Hodgkin's, spread is step-by-step to contiguous lymph nodes, usually starting in the neck; spread is random in Non-Hodgkin's
  • histology - polymorphic in Hodgkin's, with diagnostic Reed-Sternberg cells often outnumbered by reactive cells, especially eosinophils; Non-Hodgkin's is monomorphic, with malignant cells most numerous
  • prognosis - up to 80% of Hodgkin's lymphomas are potentially curable; this proportion is much less for Non-Hodgkin's patients taken as a whole